Erratic winds fanned flames in a Uintah Basin blaze that prompted the temporary evacuation of a small town as crews across Utah contended with a rash of lightning-sparked fires.
Relief is not in sight for firefighters trying to snuff out blazes that had consumed more than 400 acres by Monday morning, with dry lightning and high winds in store through midweek.The lightning danger is usually rated on a scale from one to a highest danger of four, said J.R. Davis, Interagency Fire Center dispatcher. This week's lightning rating from the National Weather Service is a six, he said. The Forest Service moved two air tankers to Salt Lake City temporarily to help with the Utah fires.
Winds fanned a fire that began Sunday about 2 p.m. five miles north of LaPoint, Duchesne County, adjacent to the small community of White-rocks. Officials believe that fire was man-caused.
Residents there were evacuated for several hours while crews battled to get a line carved along the mile-long fire, said Kim Bartel, an Interagency Fire Center dispatcher in Vernal. The air tankers made slurry drops on the fire, which was a big help to line crews, Bartel said.
A second hundred-acre blaze burning on Bureau of Indian Affairs land nearby was causing problems for firefighters trying to work around heavy timber and rocky terrain.
"I think the humidity recovery and the cooler temperatures should help considerably," Bartel said, adding a dry-lightning watch was posted for Monday.
Three 20-person crews and a helicopter were working a 50-acre fire burning near Smith and Morehouse Dam in the Slader Basin on the Wasatch National Forest, Davis said Monday.
The fire was burning in heavy timber, but had not made a run to get away from firefighters, Davis said. Crews have been staying on the fire line around the clock with food flown in by helicopter.
The fire was started by lightning about 6 p.m. Friday and officials expected it would be contained sometime Monday afternoon and controlled Tuesday.
Lightning also is believed responsible for a 70-acre fire consuming heavy timber on the Morgan County side of Farmington Canyon, Davis said.
"It's creeping, moving slowly and putting up a lot of smoke," said Forest Service spokeswoman Kathy Jo Pollock. "Since the terrain is so rough and the winds so erratic, it is really unsafe to have anybody up there."
Firefighting helicopters were expected to help with the blaze beginning Monday, but were unavailable over the weekend because of other fires, Davis said.
A 200-acre blaze is burning 15 miles east of Pineview Reservoir in Saw Mill Canyon. Pollock said two state engines and three crews were at the scene of the fire, which is burning at the Deseret Land and Livestock Co.
No structures are threatened, she said. "But it's real heavy timber and with the wind being what it is," crews are concerned it may spread out to state and federal lands.
Local crews were working a blaze near Porcupine Dam in Cache County. But Pollock said communications with the crews manning the blaze have been poor, and no acreage estimate was available.
Meanwhile, crews in Wyoming were fending back flames that have scorched about 240,000 acres of timber and brush in Yellowstone National Park. More than 2,000 firefighters were working the blazes, said park spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt.